Some More Summer Reads

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Jun 29, 2008 in Books I'm Reading

I must be a really quick reader – while we were away this week, I finished 2 complete novels and am 3/4 of the way through a third! – I have always been one to blow through books quickly – especially those that are well written and keep my interest. I had some time to read while we were on the beach and while the kids were at the waterpark and the pool…

By the way, Emily learned to swim underwater while we were on vacation! She’d been afraid to try, but she finally got her courage up and now she’s swimming like an old pro!

But back to the books – the first one I finished was Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston.


I thought this was going to be a light, funny read. But instead, it was more of a portrait of the breakdown of a marriage. It follows the story of Elinor Mackey – a corporate lawyer and her husband Ted, a podiatrist. Elinor and Ted spend their thirties focused on their careers and then when they decide to try and start a family, they have to endure failed fertility treatments and face a life together without children.

After all the hormone treatments, Elinor becomes impossible to live with and Ted ends up having an affair with Gina, his personal trainer. I think the author tried to present the book in a such a way that you side with no individual character. The story is told from the point of view of each person and so you are able understand and sympathize with the feelings of Ted, Gina and Elinor.

The book was good – but not the lighthearted story I had hoped for. But it was a nice read that accurately reflects the difficulties faced by many people in their marriages – there are no ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ – just people trying to do the best they can.

The next book I read, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, was TOTALLY outside my normal type of book. I’m not even sure exactly why I picked it up – probably because it was previously an Oprah’s Book Club selection.


Talk about the opposite of a light read! The Road follows a man and his son trying to continue to exist after some sort of an apocalypse that leaves the world lifeless, gray and hopeless. They are on the east coast headed south for more warmth after the sun is covered with nothing but dark, gray skies. All plants are dead – everything is covered with ash – and the remaining starving people are driven to do unthinkable things to survive.

The book is written in an odd style – small paragraphs, short dialogue (with no apostrophes) and poetic language. You never find out the name of the man or the boy – and you never find out exactly what caused the apocalypse. But you can almost feel the rain, the hopelessness, the fear and depression – the story is so well written.

I read this entire book from cover to cover in about 3 hours – in spite of its subject matter and frank images, you can’t help but keep reading. Again, this is not normally my kind of book, but I’m glad I read it. And I was VERY happy to look up and see bright blue skies and lots of happy people on the beach after I finished!

The third book that I have almost finished is The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold.


I picked up this book after having read another book by Sebold, The Lovely Bones, and after having heard an interview with her on NPR about The Almost Moon.

This book follows the story of Helen Knightly, a woman who kills her mother in the opening chapter. Helen’s mother, Clair, is in her late 80s and is suffering from dementia. Helen helps to care for her mother and in a moment of panic, suffocates her mother while attempting to clean her up after a bowel accident.

The rest of the book goes on to describe Clair’s mental illness and Helen’s childhood growing up with a mother who is, in her words, ‘crazy’. Her mother reaches a point where she will no longer leave the house when Helen is just a young child. Her father tries to deal with her mother as best he can, but he himself commits suicide. And Helen has a failed marriage and two grown children of her own.

I still have a few more pages to go, but I think this is an interesting portrayal of a child growing up with a mother who is mentally ill. In some ways, I think anyone with a less-than-ideal childhood can relate to some of what Helen goes through. I am, however, having problems understanding how she handles herself after her mother’s death – she becomes intimate with her best friend’s son, calls her ex-husband for advice, cuts off her mother’s braid to keep in her purse and puts her mother in the basement freezer. Maybe the author’s intent is to show a bit of mental illness in Helen herself – I’ll have to read the remainder of the book and see how the story ends.

At this rate, I’m going to have to start getting my books from the library and not from the bookstore…not sure the library looks kindly upon sand and water on their books, though…

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